Can You Afford to Buy?
When you decide to buy a house, one of the hardest things
to figure out is how much you can afford. The important thing
is only to spend as much as you can comfortably afford.
What Do You Need To Know about Home Loans?
Most people bxorrow money to buy a home. If you take out
a home loan, then you will have a monthly mortgage payment.
This payment has several components. These parts of a mortgage
payment are called PITI principal, interest, tax and
- Principal. The principal is the loan amount remaining
- Interest. The interest is the amount charged for
- Real estate taxes. The real estate taxes are collected
each month by the lender until the annual property tax bill
comes due, and then the lender pays the tax bill.
- Homeowners insurance and mortgage insurance.
Lenders often require homeowners insurance and mortgage
insurance as part of your payment. Homeowners insurance
provides protection if something major happens to your house
such as a fire, and the mortgage insurance protects your
lender in case you dont make your payments.
What Are Other Costs of Home Ownership?
Too often people consider only the monthly mortgage payment
when deciding if they can afford to buy a home. Other costs
are also very important such as loan costs, new housing expenses,
and current living expenses. When you borrow money, a lender
may charge fees such as an application fee. Another initial
cost can be points.
Points are a one-time charge by the lender to increase the
loan yield. A point is one percent of the mortgage loan amount.
These are some possible closing costs. Closing costs are expenses
(above the property price) paid by the buyer and the seller.
You cant borrow all the money you need to buy a house.
You will need some cash for the closing costs and the down
payment. A down payment is a percentage of the homes
The percentage depends on the type of loan you get. Lenders
usually require 20 percent down payment for a conventional
mortgage. Some lenders will finance for as low as 10 percent
down payment, but require the buyer to purchase mortgage insurance.
FHA (Federal Housing Authority) and VA (Veterans Administration)
financing requires even a smaller percentage down payment.
What are the additional costs you will have with home ownership?
Table 1 to list your current housing expenses and
to estimate your future housing expenses. For example, what
is your utility bill now and will it increase if you buy a
Consider changes in the cost of your insurance, taxes, commute,
tools, and fees such as condo fees.
You may want a "reserve fund" to cover initial
new home expenses such as decorating, window coverings, furniture,
lawn care equipment, and unanticipated repairs. Try not to
do any major remodeling during the first year. If you stretch
yourself too far and you cant pay your monthly mortgage
payments, you may lose your home.
Dont forget to keep in mind your non-housing expenses.
Non-housing expenses include food, clothing, entertainment,
education, car expenses, medical expenses, childcare, savings,
etc. These expenses are important to consider as you look
at the mortgage payment figures. Can you comfortably afford
the monthly mortgage payment if one of your other expenses
(such as medical or childcare) increases?
How Much Money Can You Borrow?
The lender sets a limit on how much you can borrow. Lenders
want to know how much of your gross income (your total
income before taxes or any deductions) will go towards your
mortgage payment. You must qualify to get a mortgage loan.
You may want to pre-qualify for a loan so that you can shop
for homes in your price range.
To qualify you for a loan, a lender will look at two major
factors: your earnings and your existing debt. To decide if
you make enough money for a mortgage payment, most lenders
use the housing-expense ratio. Typically lenders will
allow you to spend up to 28% of your gross income for a mortgage
payment. For example, a family earning $50,000 gross annual
income earns $4,167 per month gross income ($50,000 divided
by 12 = $4,167). This family would qualify for a loan with
a $1,167 monthly mortgage payment ($4,167 multiplied by .28).
However, keep in mind this ratio uses gross income not take-home
income. You must decide if you can comfortably afford this
high of a monthly payment plus your other expenses.
Lenders also use the debt-to-income ratio. This method calculates
how much of your gross monthly income is used to pay debt.
Payments for the mortgage, car loans, credit card debt, student
loan payments and other debt are all considered. Lenders often
use a 36% debt-to-income ratio. However, taking on
such a large payment obligation isnt wise unless you
feel confident you can live on what remains of your income.
2 to calculate your debt-to-income ratio.
Lenders consider other factors too. A poor credit history,
unstable income source, or inadequate cash reserves can disqualify
you as a borrower. The lender also must approve the house
you want to purchase. Usually this approval requires an appraisal
of the property.
What Are Your Options?
Dont be discouraged if at first it seems you cant
qualify for the loan you would like. There are many programs
to help first-time buyers. These programs usually offer loans
at low interest rates or with a low down payment. Be sure
to check on the availability of these first-time buyer loans
and also FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and VA (Veterans
Administration) loans. You may want to reevaluate the home
price you thought you wanted. Perhaps you could qualify for
a less expensive home.
It may be that its important to pay down your current
debt or save some cash before you buy a home. Set yourself
a goal to save or reduce debt by a certain date. When youve
met your goal, apply for a loan again.
By carefully considering all the costs of home ownership,
you can choose a home that you can comfortably afford.
Written by Susan Taylor, Consumer and Family Economics Educator,
University of Illinois Extension, August 2000.